Morning Briefing - October 05, 2023
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October 05, 2023

Y-12, Pantex, other NNSA sites challenged with inexperienced workforce as modernization challenges loom

By ExchangeMonitor

KNOXVILLE – More than half of the employees at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office, which encompasses both the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee and the Pantex Plant in Texas, have been working for the nuclear enterprise for less than five years, according to agency and contractor officials.

There are about 12,000 employees between the two sites, jointly managed on behalf of the NNSA by Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS). Of those, more than 50 percent of the federal workforce and 61 percent of CNS employees have worked there for less than five years, Teresa Robbins, manager of the NNSA Production Office. 

That lack of experience presents a challenge for the two major nuclear weapon manufacturing facilities, although it also is presenting an opportunity to build a specialized workforce from scratch as they gear up for the largest nuke modernization effort since the Cold War, Robbins said. 

“It definitely creates an opportunity and we are actually seeing this as an opportunity,” Robbins said at the Energy, Technology and Environmental Business Association’s Business Opportunities and Technical Conference here. “From a safety culture perspective, we see this as an opportunity to onboard the next generation workforce in an intentional manner so in hopes they’ll mentor them through their first five years to instill the culture that we want them to adopt, not our bad practices.” 

Dave Pesiri, senior director of the Project Management Resource Center at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, agreed that given a renewed plutonium pit production mission at the lab, a mature workforce is essential. 

“The ability to make sure that we’re building maturity, and we’re positioning our people for success is something that we spent a lot of time doing with our team at Los Alamos,” Pesiri said at the conference. 

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